Most of our media consumption is streamed through our Apple TV. With almost all of it taking place after our 18 month-old daughter has gone to bed, we often have the volume turned down on our TV pretty far so as not to wake her up. I’ve long wished for subtitle support for those poorly audio-mixed films, and only recently discovered it.
I don’t know which apps this works with, but to activate subtitles in Netflix, all you need to do is hold down the Select/Play button while the movie is playing. This pops up a menu where you can choose for which language to activate subtitles. Handy!
I don’t know when this was added, and perhaps it’s always been there, but I’ve never noticed it until recently and have never come across any documentation of it.
Rachel and I were browsing Netflix last night, when I came across something funny in the “Recently Added” stream: test files. I’ve seen these pop up on “What’s New on Netflix” before, and as a video geek, they’ve always piqued my interest.
They’re little test movies (never intended for public access) that Netflix adds to its streaming service at various frame rates, which I assume are used for testing. Though I’ve managed to get the these movies’ pages on the Netflix website before, I’ve never successfully played them. The Apple TV client, however, is able to play them perfectly well.
It starts off with some simple exterior shots from the Netflix campus. After that, a guy—who I can only assume is the life of every Netflix staff party—appears, running around Netflix HQ with a DVD, doing cartwheels around trees, moonwalking with a laptop, juggling, and performing a monologue from Julius Caesar. There’s a few more simple shots, and then the eleven minute video ends with some screen calibration images. All the test videos are made up of the same footage compressed at the different frame rates.
Naturally, such an anomaly could not go undocumented, and since I don’t have a device capable of recording an HDMI stream, I popped my camera in front of my TV and hit record. The performance from Netflix’s resident thespian begins around the 3:45 mark.
We’ve been using and enjoying our Netflix Canada streaming account quite a bit. We watch it almost exclusively through the Apple TV, and since signing up a few months ago, we’ve enjoyed hours of content (most of it in HD).
A few thoughts and observations:
Although limited, I have no complaints about the content. It’s growing all the time, and I can’t imagine I’ll ever catch up to what I want to watch.
It oughta have some kind of social integration. I’m not one for cramming in social functionality where it doesn’t belong, but there’s great benefits for both Netflix and subscribers here. There’s been a lot of times that I’ve wanted to share and comment on what I’ve just watched on Twitter or have wanted to recommend specific titles to friends.
The recommendation engine is fantastic, and the super-specific genres it suggests (i.e. “70′s Gritty Crime Movies”) is fun.
The content should be curated, at least a little bit. When I logged on at Halloween or Christmas time, I fully expected to see Holiday-specific suggestions. This is something Zip.ca does quite well.
We need a flipping instant queue, or some way to flag the movies we want to come back to. People have been screaming about this since day one, and Netflix doesn’t seem to get it.
Most of these comments may be negative, but that’s only because it’s so easy to be picky with a service that is otherwise so great. Overall, we are quite satisfied, and don’t have any plan on dropping the subscription any time soon.
The main reason I’ve been looking forward to the iOS 4.2 release has been the AirPlay feature. Ever since it was announced, I’ve been trying to figure out how it was going to work with my 3GS, specifically in terms of streaming video from my phone to our much-loved Apple TV.
After I got my iPhone and Apple TV updated, I played around with some of the AirPlay functionality a bit. This is what I found:
Streaming video from the iPhone seems to work in the iPod and YouTube apps. It, very surprisingly, does not work in the Photos app, so there’s no way to immediately play the videos you’ve shot with your phone on the Apple TV. Drag.
The NFB app will play its audio through the Apple TV, but no video. I assume other third party video apps will work the same way, but didn’t try any others. Double drag.
Playing back photos works well, for the most part. That said, I can’t see myself using it a whole lot, as the best photos I’ve taken are generally on Flickr or iPhoto, so I can see them there through those Apple TV apps.
Photos taken in portrait orientation were shown sideways on the screen, with the exception of screenshots. I’m sure we’ll see a fix for this soon.
Playing back music is exactly as one would expect it to be. Again, however, any music I have on my iPhone is already being streamed to the Apple TV from my computer, so there’s nothing too exciting here.
I think there’s some exciting potential for the AirPlay functionality. It’d be great to be able to stream any video I can play on my phone to the TV. It’d essentially bring hundreds of apps to the Apple TV right there. That said, content providers are generally pretty stingy with what devices they let their content be screened on, so it may be a while before we see this.
Also, the idea that anyone with an iPhone, iPad, or iPod Touch on my network can stream their photos, music, or videos to the Apple TV is pretty cool too.
On another note, AirPlay from iTunes to the Apple TV is kinda fun. I know people have been enjoying it with AirTunes for a while now, but I only got to try it for the first time a few nights ago. It’s definitely nice to be able to play and control music from iTunes through the stereo while I work at the computer.